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#334 Evidence Based Practice – Sewell Park Academy

Vasiliki Christoforatou, former Literacy Lead, Sewell Park Academy

What did we do?

The project focused on language for learning: Improving outcomes by the explicit teaching of the Academic Language Process across the knowledge-based curriculum, creating experts in specific disciplines. At Sewell Park both Progress 8 and Attainment 8 scores were well below average (0.53 and 37.6) respectively. The key purpose of this project was to address the significant barrier to progress which Academic Language and, in particular the genre, has to attainment and progress in Key Stage 3 and 4. The project supported Sewell Park’s already established “Teaching and Learning Cycle” by developing: 1. Teachers’ understanding of the language features of Genre 2. Techniques for explicit modelling of language and new vocabulary 3. The above features to be clearly evident in the classroom and curriculum planning.

Summary of impact

The study took the form of both quantitative experimental methodology, which compared the lexical density; followed by a qualitative questionnaire which focused on staff perceptions of the whole-school approach to Continuous Professional Development and their perceptions and awareness of the key features of the project including the role that Learning Triads played in the development of the projects’ aims. 11 Triads were active during the project and 9 of the Triads were completed. Triads studied lessons for 20-30 minutes, made observation notes and met to record the outcomes of the exercise. The outcomes also constituted further steps as well as developmental points for the department involved. These outcomes are summarised below:

• The need to embed modelling in every learning activity and not just the main task of the lesson (whether written or oral).
• The function of checklists/criteria to accompany models to ensure that students understand why the model used is ‘perfect’.
• Adapting modelling and even reducing it at different stages within the year and across 5 years.
• Emphasis on developing teacher expertise and creating ‘banks of models’ easily accessible.
• The critical role of the ‘joint construction’ stage to clarify misconceptions and allow independent production.
• The value of purposeful and structured reading/listening/watching classroom practice.
• Modelling extended talk/writing and not just vocabulary across the curriculum.
• The importance of modelling the language of thought processes and sharing explicitly with students.

The evaluation of the study demonstrated the following impact for staff and students:

  • Staff have developed their understanding of the language demands of the curriculum on students and have engaged with strategies in-order to address these.
  • Academic expression (‘sounding like an expert’) has become integral to the school’s teaching and learning ethos.
  • Teachers use modelling with increasing confidence making expectations ‘explicit’ for different groups of students.
  • Teachers have increased awareness of current research in education and its relevance to classroom practice.
  • Students and especially vulnerable students are producing a better quality of work as a result of the modelling and joint construction stages.
  • There was a marked increase in the lexical density of texts, however, due to the lack of a solid baseline these results only suggest the possibility of progress (further work should be done in analysing this using a randomised control trial).

Steps taken

We applied for funding from the Norwich Opportunity Area Evidence Based Practice Fund in order to carry out the study. This project was embedded over the 2018-19 academic year with the key focus being the lexical density of Year 7 students’ written work; with accompanying evidence of curriculum plans reflecting the language pedagogy which was introduced to judge the teachers’ improved reflective use of language and explicit modelling as an integral part of their practice resulting in higher standards of higher academic literacy.

To address the language gap the CPD was delivered to specific departments over the course of the year. An initial launch meeting showed teachers the language capabilities of the pupils they had (support provided by a KS2 SLE), demonstrated the language features of different texts and provided some insight into how to model passages of writing supported by certain Cooperative Learning techniques; then the CPD became more bespoke in Triadic groups.

The decision to use triads was because a range of studies have found that the peer coaching will have a positive, statistically significant effect, in the success of CPD participant’s behaviours (Brenan, 2017). Triads were based around departments and included either the Head, Project Lead or Research Lead as one part of the three. This was to maximise buy-in from the members of staff, ensure that the professional development is maximised and access to best practice.

CPD Triads met to plan the Language for Learning features they needed to model, address how the outcome were to be achieved and identified pupils who represented the key groups (Pupil Premium, EAL and boys). Followed by reflection and feedback sessions with concrete development actions for future planning. This was a rolling programme as one triad finished the CPD and began the lesson study phase another group were then trained up.

The Project and Research leads developed resources, the CPD package and the research plan utilising further professional development on language pedagogy from Lexis Education. Additional pre-work to the project took place with the acquisition of writing samples for Greater Depth pupils so that the individual departments are aware of the Academic Language skills and form a baseline. The SLT was introduced to the new model, its main components and received CPD on how to identify some aspects in the classroom; this was reflected in the development of school systems such as Sewell Park Essentials, observation and lesson planning forms and in curriculum development plans.

In a half-term during whole school Inset the project was launched to the whole staff by the Project and Research leads. During the first half term triads were coached on the first set of key areas of the new methodology. Those areas were also supported during twilight and in triad coaching sessions before implementing into the curriculum. The identified triads were then rolled out over the course of the year with increasing linguistic awareness and range of outcomes identified in planning and student performance.

What would we do differently

The key conclusions drawn from the project were:

  • Triads are integral to the school’s CPD delivery systems.
  • We should continue to develop teachers’ expertise on subject-specific language needs.
  • Time needs to be invested within departments in-order to fully update schemes of learning and approaches with reference to specific genres.


The total cost of the project was £20,190. All costs were covered by the Norwich Evidence Based Practice Fund. These included training for the Research Lead on LILAC programme and LILAC text-book resources, the development of resources and creation of resources including the CPD package, staff delivery costs including supply teaching. Also travel costs. The majority of costs were spent on staff delivery £13650.

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Norwich Opportunity Area Team
Sewell Park Academy

St. Clements Hill

Norwich, Norfolk